The difficult interplay between politics and relationships is the common theme of this well paired double bill of plays by young companies Boneyard Theatre and Bricks & Mortar Theatre, which is the first ever production at the cosy but functional Hope Theatre, which as Mouth recently reported, is promising to ensure all its performers are paid Equity’s minimum wage.

The first play, Sandpits Avenue, is about five friends from small town Shropshire whose long-standing bonds are tested when two of them, Tim and Gwillam, are posted to Afghanistan. Left at home are Abby, who is Gwillam’s fiancée and Tim’s sister; and Tim’s fiancée Hatty. And then there is Kit, who Hatty has fallen into a whirlwind romance with. The day arrives when the soldiers are due home, but when Gwillam arrives alone, all of the characters are forced to find a way to deal with the complex situation they find themselves in.

Nathalie Wain’s impressive script is written entirely in verse – its arrhythmic rhymes dip in and out of focus and add shape to the flow of the drama without feeling forced. The temptation must have been there to insert easy humour into the script, so it is commendable for remaining sincere throughout without getting weighed down by its difficult themes.

Sandpits Avenue

…aggressive drumming and vocal harmonies…

The multi-talented Wain, who stars in her play as Hatty, also wrote and plays the show’s music – a mixture of Celtic-tinged folk guitar, aggressive drumming and vocal harmonies. The verse, music, and simple, graceful choreography used in parts of the production come together beautifully to create a really coherent and engaging play that sits perfectly inside its 50 minute running time.

Georgia Bliss’s League Of St George takes us to a different England – that of late 1970s east London, where the central character Adam (Oliver Tunstall) is part of the eponymous League, a fascist society whose members find common identity in the iconic skinhead uniform: shaved hair, gingham shirt, braces, rolled up jeans and steel toe-capped boots.

…Adam and his friends spend their days talking about drinking, sex, and beating up Pakis…

With the lack of economic opportunities made clear, Adam and his friends spend their days talking about drinking, sex, and beating up Pakis. Adam is frequently teased by his friends for never bringing girls home, but secretly continues a complicated but passionate love affair, which in this environment is beyond unacceptable – not only is Adam’s squeeze Nilay (Craig Mitchell) a man, but he is also Asian.

All eight cast members do a terrific job of bringing the world of the play to life, with Tunstall and Mitchell especially enjoyable in their scenes together – we really get a sense of the way their conflicting desires and beliefs are brought to the forefront in each other’s presence. The scenes of Bliss’s fiery and humorous script are divided wonderfully with live punk and ska music. But in this case, the running time does not fully do justice to the script’s potential – it feels as though the story, rich in detail, is slightly crammed in. That, however, is the one minor mark against an intelligent and very entertaining new work.

Arts_4 Stars4 stars

The shows run until the 30 November.

Ticket prices vary.

 

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